June 20, 2024

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Ethiopian Court Rejects Bail to Priest in $6 Million Fraud Case

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The Ethiopian court has denied bail of Ethiopian priest and other three individuals, who are facing charges related to alleged fraudulent paperwork. For the third time, the Ethiopian court has rejected a bail request.

An Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (EOTC) clergyman allegedly tried to defraud the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa. According to a complaint filed by the AU, the accused Belay Mekonnen, a clergyman and deputy manager at the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, tried to cheat the AU out of more than $6 million.

The accused are suspected of illegally transferring over $6 million from an account belonging to the African Union. The charging documents, filed on April 16, 2024, by AU with the Police Commission, state that Belay attempted to withdraw USD 6.05 million from AU accounts using fraudulent paperwork. Read More...

This decision on bail by the court came after federal prosecutors presented their arguments against granting bail to the defendants. The court found the prosecution’s case compelling enough to keep the accused in custody as legal proceedings continue.

At the court proceedings today, an unusual request was made by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church priest who is facing trial. He asked the judges to permit him to remain in custody at the federal police bureau facilities where he is currently being held, rather than being transferred to a jail. However, this request was met with objections from the police authorities, who insisted on having the priest remanded to a regular prison.

The priest cited health concerns as the primary reason behind his request to stay at the police bureau. After considering the arguments from both sides, the judges allowed him to continue being held at the federal police bureau until further notice.

The judges also told the police to bring other people to court who might be involved in the same crime. 

During the court hearing, the police officers told the judges that they are still looking for other people connected to this crime. Because of this, the judges decided to postpone the case until next week. This will give the police more time to find and arrest other suspects.

One of the judges working on this case has decided to remove himself from the case. The reason for this is that the judge has a religious connection with one of the people accused in the case, an Ethiopian Orthodox priest named Belay Mekonnen.

Because of this connection, the judge felt to step away from the case to avoid any potential unfairness. As a result of the judge’s removal, today’s court proceedings were handled by only two judges instead of three. However, the court has stated that a new judge will be appointed soon to take the place of the judge who stepped down. This is to ensure that the case can continue smoothly and fairly.

The case has been postponed for now, but it will continue in the following week when the court meets again. The priest will remain in police custody at the station until then.

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